© 2024 Maine Public

Bangor Studio/Membership Department
63 Texas Ave.
Bangor, ME 04401

Lewiston Studio
1450 Lisbon St.
Lewiston, ME 04240

Portland Studio
323 Marginal Way
Portland, ME 04101

Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

Maine House passes controversial gun control bills by a single vote

Various guns are displayed at a store in Auburn, Maine, on July 18, 2022.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Various guns are displayed at a store in Auburn, Maine, on July 18, 2022.

Two gun control measures squeaked through the Democratic-controlled Maine House by a single vote on Tuesday.

But supporter can't celebrate yet because both controversial bills face additional action in the House and Senate as lawmakers scramble to complete their work before adjourning on Wednesday.

One bill, LD 2086, would ban so-called "bump stocks" and other mechanical or electronic devices that allow semi-automatic guns to operate more like fully automatic firearms or machine guns. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing a federal banon bump stocks issued by the Trump administration after a man killed 58 at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017 with guns equipped with the devices.

A second bill,LD 2238, would require gun buyers to wait 72 hours before picking up a firearm from a licensed dealer. Supporters argued a waiting period will help reduce gun suicides in Maine, which accounted for nearly 90% of firearm fatalities in Maine in both 2020 and 2021, according to state statistics. Eleven states have some length of waiting period on gun purchases.

Both measures received initial approval in the House on votes of 73-72, with a handful of Democrats joining all Republicans to oppose the bills.

Bill sponsor Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said she first introduced a waiting period bill in 2007 on behalf of a neighbor whose 18-year-old son committed suicide the same day he purchased a rifle.

"Waiting periods do not restrict responsible gun ownership but they do create a window in time in which someone in crisis can get help," Craven said.

But Republicans said the bill will hurt Maine resident who need to quickly purchase a gun either for self-defense or for hunting. They predicted the 3-day wait could be particularly problematic for sportsmen from other states who come to Maine for hunting only to experience problems with their own firearms.

Rep. Laurel Libby of Auburn said the 72-hour waiting period is a façade that does not address "the festering wound that is mental health here in Maine."

"Let's not fool ourselves. This bill didn't pass last session because Maine people did not want it and here we are doing the same thing over again. Nothing has changed, Madame Speaker. Maine people do not want 72-hour waiting periods," Libby said.

Guns have emerged as a top issue in Augusta this year after last October's mass shooting in Lewiston. Both bills have already received initial approval in the Senate. But as in the House, the 72-hour waiting period only passed the Senate by a single vote. And with such slim margins, supporters can't afford to lose any votes due to changes of heart or absences during final enactment.

Both chambers have also voted in supportof a third bill, LD 2224, sponsored by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills that would require background checks on all private gun sales that are advertised online or in print. The measure aims to close what supporters say is a loophole in Maine laws that allow thousands of private guns to change hands in Maine without background checks.

The bill would also change Maine's "yellow flag" gun confiscation law to allow police to take a potentially dangerous individual into protective custody even if they have not yet committed a crime.

Family, friends and fellow Army reservistsrepeatedly raised concerns about the gunman in the Lewiston mass shooting, saying he was increasingly paranoid and had access to guns. But Sagadahoc County Sheriff's deputies never attempted to yellow flag him in part because they felt they did not have legal grounds to take him into protective custody.